The PATH to success

If your dreams were written down on paper what would they look like? Would they contain phrases like “inclusion,” “people will…

If your dreams were written down on paper what would they look like?

Would they contain phrases like “inclusion,” “people will phone me,” “accepting each other’s differences and gifts” and “having sufficient money to have a good quality of life?”

Would they be written in bright colours and illustrated with pictures of friends standing together in a circle?

For a group of people living with intellectual disabilities in Whitehorse, that is exactly what their dreams look like.

This group conjures a world where a network of community friends helps them improve their quality of life.

With the help of Pat Golding, former national adviser with People First of Canada, and a tool called Planning Alternative Tomorrow with Hope, dubbed PATH, the group planned to realize their dreams.

PATH can be used for organizational and personal planning.

It resembles a giant mind-map or flow-chart. It’s topped by specific dream, which then flows to realistic and positive goals, which are then broken into the steps needed to achieve those goals.

The crew that gathered at the Yukon Inn on Wednesday had a PATH with a timeline.

Program funding, provided by Whitehorse’s Crime Prevention Victim Service Trust Fund, runs out April 1, 2008.

So the group decided that, by May 1, they would start a letter-writing campaign to government and community leaders to ask for help realizing their dreams.

For example, because they couldn’t drive, they decided they needed better bus service in Whitehorse to improve the quality of their lives.

To accomplish the goal, they will write requesting a meeting with mayor Bev Buckway.

The group wants to have meetings with community officials by August 1.

“We wanted to do something that would help reduce victimization and isolation for people with labels and intellectual disabilities, so we looked at what we could do and it seemed like PATH was a really good idea,” said Lisa Rawlings, organizer of the PATH workshop and a co-ordinator at Yukon Association for Community Living.

A diverse group of people turned up at the workshop, noted Rawlings.

“We’ve had a variety of service agencies and families and people with labels here today; it was absolutely wonderful,” she said.

Friendship is important, and, with luck, people attending left with a better understanding about this, said Rawlings.

“Friendship is so integral in our lives; if we have friends, we’re safer, we’re known, we’re out there – we have a life,” she said. “Hopefully they’ve got a taste of this PATH tool which can be used in all sorts of planning.

“It can be used in friendship planning that we used it in today, organizational planning, future hopes and dreams for after school — all kinds of things — so hopefully they’ll have an idea of how that works and how they can apply it in their work and in their lives.”

Dreams, the things that start off any PATH, don’t necessarily have to be realistic, said Golding and Rawlings.

“They’ve described a world that’s euphoric and that’s not so bad,” said Golding. “We all dream, that’s what this is, it’s their dreams.”

Golding, who facilitated the workshop, and colleague Peter Park, a founding member of the PATH movement, were trained in the planning method through Creative Facilitation courses at colleges in Manitoba and Ontario.

PATH can be used for businesses, groups or individuals, they say.

To teach PATH, Golding and Park had to write up their own.

“I would say that everybody should have a PATH,” said Park.

 “I used to be one of these critics of PATH; I’d say, ‘Oh I don’t need it.’ And then I did one and I’ve been doing it ever since.

“That was about seven or eight years ago that I said, ‘Oh nuts, I’ll try it before I condemn it.’ Well, now I’m saying everybody ought to have one because it’s improved my whole life.

 “It’s made me a better person and it’s opened my eyes to other things that are possible.

“I used to say, ‘Oh wow, I don’t think that’s possible.’ Yes it is possible to do things now.”

Golding and Park have taught the PATH program across Canada.

Participants have a lot of fun doing it, they said.

The tables at the workshop were littered with stickers, toys and costumes that people could dress up in.

Every time a volunteer was needed to carry out a specific part of the group’s PATH, at least five hands shot up in the air.

Golding and Park said the group’s eagerness was certainly the engine that was going to help these people realize their dreams.

“They need to be passionate about it,” said Golding.

“And they are.”